On the Meaning of Respect in Social Media
Social media makes it easier to express one’s views; however, the downside is that anyone can attack the latter. As a result, the word “respect” gets thrown around significantly in this mediated world, such as the statement, “Respect my opinion.” Respect generally means feeling deep admiration for a person due to the latter’s values, abilities, and achievements. The definition appears to be different from what people expect when they use it in social media channels. Respect is singular in the world of social media where it is an attitude that involves acknowledging differences, co-existing despite these differences, and never undermining the existence of diversity.
In social media, respect refers to the manner of awareness towards diversity. Respect pertains to knowing that people are different and can share numerous, including conflicting, views. An example is a fan of one celebrity who expresses admiration for who she “stans” or idolizes. The same fan comments on news involving another actress, most likely a “competitor” of her stan and says, “I don’t like her. She looks nasty and sings horribly.” Consequently, the fans of the one she criticized responded and called her a “basher” or a “hater.” She asserted that she is entitled to her own opinion and deserves “respect.” The fan makes sense because it is true that people develop their own perceptions of one another. Whether others agree with these perceptions is not the goal of respect. Instead, people should respect each other’s views online since diversity exists and differences are bound to be exhibited online.
Apart from realizing the truth of online diversity, respect entails co-existence amidst differences. People should not only understand that they are dissimilar but also that they must learn to live with the latter. In the given example above, two fans from different fandoms should not expect the other to love the celebrities they stan. On the contrary, they should accept that they have different preferences and opinions. They should each be free to express their opinions online without being bashed and branded as a “hater.” It is possible to criticize without hating after all. Freedom of speech is then connected to respect. The freedom to speak one’s mind means allowing others to speak theirs as well, no matter how despicable they may sound. If people want to engage in an online debate, they can even do so, as long as they do it in a respectful manner which means using polite words and avoiding ad hominem attacks on the fan and the celebrity. At the end of the day, they are two different individuals who have the right to express themselves and have space in social media sans the illogical and hurtful bashing of each other. To respect means to respect the multiplicity of opinions and views online.
Finally, respect in social media should include abhorrence for undermining others who are different. Diversity is real and should not be pushed under the rug for the sake of homogeneity, especially in the name of conformity only. This refers only to different beliefs, opinions, and practices of course and not defying the law. Definitely, people should conform to laws, and if they want to change it, they can lobby for its revision. Otherwise, in social media, to respect means to not act superiorly and to avoid demeaning or demonizing other opinions, particularly when they are logically presented. An example is a supporter of a certain politician who calls the counterpart of another politician a “tard” for believing the latter’s policies. Such a slur does not represent respect as it debases the other for thinking in a different way. Respect means considering the validity of the spectrum of diversity.
Respect in social media is not mere admiration for someone’s abilities but the attitude of remaining calm despite multiplicity and conflicting views. To respect the other is to interact with them as one would expect from the latter. The world is already full of violence and to reduce it, people should learn to practice respect in social media as well as in real life.